Sunday, 6 May 2012

Foxes, owls and all

Oh joy, another drizzly, dull weekend. We decided to go out anyway today, partly because the Sigmonster is currently back with us after its latest trip to Sigma for repair, and we wanted to check if it really was repaired (SPOILER ALERT - it isn't. It's still underexposing by a full stop at max zoom, so we'll be sending it off again for the third/fourth time (I've lost track) and hopefully this time it will go to Japan for a proper seeing-to).

BUT before that happened, while I was in the front room messing about playing PC games and waiting for Rob to get ready, he came rushing in, said 'Fox cubs', and grabbed his camera bag. I grabbed my camera bag and followed him into the bedroom, where we opened the windows for a better view of what was going on in the back garden.

This knackered-looking vixen was standing on the wall at the back of the garden (not our garden, we're in the top flat and only the ground floor gets to use the garden), having her undercarriage vigorously pummelled by four very well-grown cubs. After the feed was over, she hopped back over the wall, but the cubs stuck around a bit longer.

They were in a shadowy corner of the garden on a very overcast day, so the photos are noisy (max ISO) and lots of them were also blurry (slow shutter speeds). Rob took some photos with  the Sigmonster, which I'll look at later. Just watching the four of them pootling about and playing was utterly delightful.

We went to Elmley after that, arriving after 5pm under skies that were just as overcast as earlier, and began the usual slow trundle down the access track.

The first bird we saw was, surprisingly, a Green Woodpecker, trying a telegraph pole out as a possible alternative to a tree. Around the farm were large numbers of Starlings, many of them disappearing into various crevices in the farm buildings to feed their chicks.

There were numerous Redshanks and Lapwings close to the tracks, and Rob spotted this rather unalert-looking Skylark fledgling, much closer than the adult Skylarks ever seem to get.

A large flock of Rooks marching about near the track took panicked flight when we slowed down, and the solitary Yellow Wagtail we saw was just as camera-shy. This Avocet wasn't bothered by us though, as it waded in a small pool by one of the many ditches.

Around the car park were the usual hordes of House Sparrows, plus flocks of Goldfinches and Linnets. I took a look over the wall behind the loos towards the pools there, and saw more Avocets, some Shelducks, Swallows hawking over the water, and Stock Doves in the owl trees. No owls, mind you.

We walked a short distance down the path into the reserve. I showed Rob where we'd seen Short-eared Owls on the recent RSPB visit, and he took my binoculars from me and immediately found a Shortie of his own. Then a second appeared, a little closer, but both stayed very distant. Still, they provided good subjects for Sigmonster practice, and it was lovely to watch them whirling, wafting and hovering over the rough grassland. After about 20 minutes both had either gone to ground or flown too far for us to see them, and we turned back.

Setting off on the access track again, we almost immediately found one of the Shorties (or a third one) on a post. Rob discovered that it is possible to use the Sigmonster in a car, though not a great experience for the person on the passenger seat. The owl sat on its post for a while and then flew, coming towards us a bit and giving us our best views of the day.

As the owl departed, a male Marsh Harrier was approaching. The two predators crossed paths, and I did capture one frame containing both birds (but it was rubbish). Here's a slightly better one of the harrier, as it swung about and headed back the way it came.

We saw several Brown Hares at this end of the track, including a very sweet leveret. They seemed quite unperturbed by our eyeballing them at close range.

The rest of the drive back produced a few more bits and bobs, including a close-range Oystercatcher, a twosome of Red-legged Partridges, and a pair of Shovelers.


Phil said...

Nice post Marianne.
Great to see the Fox cubs in your own backyard. We've always hoped to see some here but it has never happened.
A great assortment of pics as usual, I like the SEO, what a great year it's been for them.

Warren Baker said...

Another full day Marianne :-) Your photo's didn't turn out too bad considering the light levels. Good to see a young Skylark :-)

waldlaeufer68 said...

when you have a look around and you have to say that it has worked out well .. It is fun to watch the pictures .. All pictures are really super successful
Be determined drop by again and have registered with you ..
Greetings from Germany